Sunday 27 June 2010

Book review : Love and Summer - William Trevor

If you imagine a hyperactive, stressed-out, workaholic city-dweller being suddenly parachuted into a quiet rural village for a week, that will give you an idea of how I felt reading Love and Summer ! After reading fast-paced thrillers and adrenalin-fuelled crime novels, it all seemed painfully slow and, dare I say it, boring. But wait to get over the culture shock and adapt to the new pace and the city-dweller will start to appreciate the beauty of the countryside, just as I was eventually won over by the lyrical quality of the writing.

Love and Summer is set in a sleepy little Irish town called Rathmoye. Life is quiet and nothing much happens so, when a stranger shows up and starts taking photographs at a funeral, the local curtain-twitcher has a field day. Who is he ? What does he want ? Surely he could fuel a few juicy rumours to put some excitement in their lives ? Well, this time, the idle tongue-wagging isn't far off the mark and the stranger, named Florian Kilderry, does embark on a love affair with the young wife of a local farmer, Ellie. There is still no great excitement though - much of their romancing involves leaving notes for each other in the grounds of an old derelict house and (sorry, huge spoiler coming up so skip on to the next paragraph if you don't want to know !) the love affair fizzles out before it has even really begun.

The style of writing is poetic, lyrical and understated. A bit too understated at times because I felt that the author didn't fully exploit much of the material he created, just hinting at things from the past that could have been developed much more fully into really interesting and exciting tales. And at times, interest and excitement were sadly lacking so it would have been a welcome relief. Ellie's sad beginnings as a foundling child and her more-or-less arranged marriage with a local farmer. The tragic tale of her husband accidentally killing his wife and infant child. The mysterious figure of Orpen Wren and his strange, half-deranged half-lucid ramblings. The fire at the old cinema that left a man dead. Miss Connulty the curtain twitcher's affair and secret abortion in her youth. Things do happen at Rathmoye after all but they are merely hinted at in a roundabout way, which to me seemed a shame.

The grand themes of life and love, hope and happiness, resignation and sadness are all evoked and I can see this book being highly popular with reading groups or study groups at school or university. The author gives you plenty of food for thought and discussion but if you want an entertaining read by yourself, it felt somewhat lacking to me, due to the slow pace and slightly tedious life of the characters. I came away feeling as if I had read a short story, rather than a fully developped novel with fleshed-out characters.

star rating : 3/5

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Viking (17 Aug 2009)
ISBN-10: 0670918245
ISBN-13: 978-0670918249

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